You know the scenario. You have to weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision. There may be uncertainties, worries, time factors and safety issues. Decisions have to be made in the office, the bedroom, the kitchen, and in the classroom, all day and every day. All these weigh on our minds as we try to decide if we should let our children play in a park, get the bus or walk, or ask the boss for some time off. If you are like, you spend far too much time in making decisions. Here are 6 practical ways to speed up the process. They also provide a fascinating insight into the whole decision-making process.
1. Try not to get analysis paralysis
You know the situation when you start to over-think the decision. You spend far too much time weighing up the ifs, buts, and what-ifs. One practical way to speed up all this is to set a deadline. You tell yourself that you have to make a decision in half-an-hour’s time, or slightly longer, if you prefer. This forces you to make a decision and you avoid unnecessary procrastination.
2. Try to narrow down the issues
Write down what is making the decision so difficult. It may be that things like lack of motivation, peer pressure, and parental interference, are complicating the whole issue. Then spend some time thinking about your goals. Finally, think about
3. Try to build in failure
We all make bad decisions. I can think back over my life and shudder at all the wrong turns I took and some pretty bad decisions I made. But, I was also able to learn from these. We should expect failure and learn from it. Once you know that a bad decision is a real possibility, it will help you speed up the decision-making process.
4. Try to recognize your cognitive bias and allow yourself to process and accept other points of view
“Our brain accepts what the eyes see and our eye looks for whatever our brain wants.”- Daniel Gilbert
The way we see the world subjectively is known in psychology as a cognitive bias. It affects our judgment and our decisions. This is very well explained in Daniel Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness. This type of cognitive bias can take many forms. One example is known as the confirmation bias. You may not be aware of it, but you are attracted to people who have similar views to yours. You visit websites and news sources which confirm your world view. The problem is that while this is comforting, you often ignore and dismiss views which are just as valid, but do not happen to fit in with your own tunnel vision of the world. The Internet has made this problem even worse because it is much easier to find larger quantities of people sharing our view, which in turn, reinforces it. When we have to decide on something, we are unaware of how much this confirmation bias is affecting our decision making. Being aware of our limited world view and seeking other opinions and experiences will help us to make more rational and less subjective decisions.
5. Try to save time by allowing the experiences of others to be a guideline as opposed to having to make your own mistakes repetitively
Before you buy a certain make of car, you may want to ask about someone who has bought the same model. The person’s opinion and experience can save you time in coming to a decision. If you have to make a decision about which treatment option to take when you are ill, it is often helpful to seek out personal experiences from those who have had the same treatment. Researchers have shown how useful this is in helping to make a decision although they warn that it has to be balanced with factual information as well.
6. Try to match your decision with your core values
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”- Mahatma Gandhi
In the corporate world, many companies are committed to their core values such as being accountable, responsible, and ready for innovation. But how are these reflected in their business decisions? They will make sure that they are socially and environmentally responsible. On a personal level, this can help speed up your decision making, just as effectively. You are committed to honesty, punctuality, openness, and loyalty when selecting friends, partners, and business partners. Loyalty may be at the top of your list. You will have to make decisions about helping friends in need. You may have to defend them when they are criticized unfairly. You would never repeat gossip about them. Making decisions like these are easier because they match your core values. If you keep these 6 steps in mind, you will be able to spend less time on decision making and also be more relaxed about it.
Featured photo credit: Decisions/ Martin Fisch via flickr.com